opinion by DORIAN MENDOZA
Seeing Pusha T’s major label debut out must provide the biggest sense of relief for the veteran rapper and his much beguiled fan base. After the demise of coke-rap dream team and brother duo Clipse in the late 2000’s, Push’s allegiances were sworn to the G.O.O.D. Music family, where the street rap was traded in for the orchestral magnitude surrounding Kanye West and his set of players. After years of setbacks and mixtapes and singles, My Name Is My Name is finally here, and with it the confident and concise rumination of an aged yet wily rapper. West’s own involvement as the vague overlord of production actually creates a space in which Pusha’s brand of storytelling and wordsmithing can blossom comfortably, even in the shadow of modern hip hop production. West outburst at the album’s listening party (he’s apparently “the heart of the motherfucking culture”) and Push’s own claims that My Name Is My Name is the best album of the year may be a stretch, but not too far of one. It’s an album of classic acuity and determination adorned with modern decoration, and certainly holds its own in one of the best years rap music has seen in recent memory.
This is Push’s coming out party, and everyone has come out to celebrate.
Pusha T’s solo career and reputation up to this point is placed upon the foundation of he and his brother built, and the absence of Malice on MNIMN speaks just as loud as any of the shiny and extravagant beats commissioned here can; this is Push’s coming out party. And while he’s the man of the hour, everyone has come out to celebrate. From the guest verses to the production lineup, My Name is My Name aims to create validity through the credit lines.
Some of these guest spots are disposable; Big Sean recycles rhyming patters and Rick Ross continues to pretend he has ever been as real as either Clipse member. In reality though, it works to Pusha’s benefit, as his technical ability outshines most. Still lifted on his post-“Control” high, only Kendrick provides comparable work on album highlight “Nosetalgia,” a throwback brick of a song given to us by Kanye and DJ Mano that’s equal parts mesmerizing and haunting, where both rappers provide a cathartic release from different viewpoints of the hustle. Still, moments of compositional awkwardness come about in R&B hooked tracks where Push tries to sacrifice his for-the-streets rap for a more pop sensitive lean (Push’s Mase flow appropriation on “Let Me Love You” has raised a couple of eyebrows). Only the Future-assisted “Pain” feels organic; predictably, Kanye is behind the boards for the cut, where Dark Twisted Fantasy-esque keys and nuclear boom bass fit Pusha’s flow like a glove.
On the topic of production, MNIMN’s list of producers is as buoyant as the guest list, all providing a smorgasbord of sounds and stylistic approaches for Push to play around with; even Sebastian Ulrich, son of Metallica man Lars Ulrich debuts a more than decent cut (via Joaquin Phoenix, for some weird reason) on album opener “King Push.” Hudson Mohawk’s production work on “Hold On” is impeccable, providing a steady stream of soulful dives and Kanye wails for Pusha and Rick Ross to cruise over. Man of the year Pharrell’s signature funky flow is provided on “Suicide,” reminding everyone why the Neptunes-Clipse partnership was so instrumental and influential.
Simply put, Pusha T is one of today’s most talented lyricists.
My Name is My Name, although not without flaws, is quite an impressive attempt to pass the bar that has been set for Pusha T. What stands out most is King Push’s lyrical talent; simply put, he is one of today’s most talented lyricists. MNIMN, as with Pusha’s entire career, is an ethnographic look at life immersed in the drug business. His acute observational skills, and his ability to translate to rhyme has propelled him and his brother Malice into rap reverends. On Clipse throwback track “Suicide” we see Push sell us on his coke-rap best, giving line after line of slow groove release.
Push’s own brand of braggadocio is as impressive as his allegories, where he spins circles around the double entendre and penetrating wordplay, most of which you need a lyric sheet to even catch. On the gold encrusted “No Regrets,” Push raps “My mind wanders on a PJ/my momma brought up in the PJs/In the club sippin’ P&J/On the same arm as my Piaget,” later bragging “April showers I rains back/Jumped ahead like June something/Still I’m wheeling that Maybach.” In an almost droll manner, Pusha pumps forth ahead with his impressive abilities in the same fervor that justified his early critical success.
Pusha comes out of the stables on his debut solo full length spitting “This is my time, this is my hour, this is my pain, this is my name, this is my power,” and he couldn’t be surer of it. The thing of it is, he (and maybe ‘Ye) may be the only one who thinks that. In a year where rap royalty pulled out their big guns, it’s hard to blindly agree with King Push and his album of the year claims. But don’t just sell on MNIMN, it’s a project of vastness and extravagance that takes advantage of the benefits of coming out of a well-oiled machine like G.O.O.D Music. Kanye’s finishing touches on the record balloon the production into the stratosphere, and the album stays there with Pusha’s lyrical prowess and technical strength. My Name Is My Name is as strong a “debut” full length as anyone could hope to produce, and reminds the world why it fell in love with this coke-rap wizard more than ten years ago. [B+]